Burst Buffers Flash Exascale Potential

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 1, 2014

For any large-scale datacenter, be it a scientific supercomputer or hyperscale web farm, the constant battles of “defensive I/O” and “offensive I/O” take their toll on overall efficiency and productivity. From checkpointing to pushing performance on long-running applications, one set of technologies is pushing its way onto the frontlines. The “burst buffer” concept, as Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Gary Grider called it five years ago, is taking aim at both dueling I/O concerns and proving itself worthy at massive scale.

Although not a new concept, the noise around burst buffers has been growing, especially at this past November’s supercomputing show where numerous vendors, from DDN, EMC, NetApp and others demonstrated their wares in the form of flashy arrays with on-board compute to handle both checkpoint and recovery in addition to boosting application performance and efficiency. The promise is multi-facted; in addition to serving as a pure storage option, these flash+compute-equipped dedicated nodes can also make storage smarter and more active—eventually to the point where this layer is built into the overall workflow in both capacity and compute terms.

“This is all based on pure economics,” Grider said. “And we predicted that all of this was coming several years ago when we did our first spreadsheet analysis that showed what was happening with bandwidth and capacity in disk drives versus flash.” The report, which can be found here, basically showed how even then, in 2009, right about now it was going to be far more economical to do checkpointing in flash then move it into disk later.

It’s worth noting that Grider was spot-on during his original economic analysis back in 2009 with where this might go. The original chart below shows the projected trajectory:

Grider1

Despite some fluctuations in flash prices, the general trend is downward, which pushes this possibility, although it’s not just about large-scale datacenters having a cheaper route to reliable checkpointing. As the team continued to investigate burst buffers to tackle reliability, it became clear how many other uses were possible with flash and compute on a dedicated set of nodes. From debugging, data analysis, throwing in dynamic load modules and more, Grider and fellow researchers began to the see the light—the full spectrum of it. Since that time, much of his career has been devoted to moving the burst buffer message forward—but not without a few caveats.

As more research is pushed toward the idea, Grider and others hope it will be even more practical to look at burst buffers for supercomputers as more than pure storage and checkpointing devices. Eventually, as his pending work on the storage-focused Exascale I/O Fast Forward program reveals, it will be possible to ship function with the data that is shuttled over to the burst buffers, meaning that all of that structure that gives deeper meaning and possibility to otherwise idle data will no longer be squelched out by the file system’s serial bit tendencies. Instead, a complex (and still immature) software paradigm will let users take advantage of the smart, active nodes of the burst buffer to handle executables while at rest between data dumps.

Grider’s graphic showing how this plays out economically (and to some degree, practically) s in one of the newest systems, Trinity, adds some real-world context to what’s needed (not to mention possible).

Grider2

While this makes sense at Trinity and future pre-exascale and exascale system levels, these same economics don’t exactly translate into the wider world. “This isn’t for everyone,” Grider said bluntly. “This is the biggest misconception, which often leads to the most questions.” He notes that while the vendor community and now, general technology masses, are being told that burst buffers can solve the world’s problems. Quite simply, unless it’s at very large scale, investing in burst buffers for general checkpointing isn’t often economically sound since far more nodes means way more failure (and many more checkpoint halts). Besides, many smaller IT shops aren’t dealing with multiple terabyte (or petabyte soon enough) dumps to make this reasonable. However, if they’re taking advantage of the active component of a smart storage approach (i.e. leveraging the compute on the nodes) it could be useful. He urged caution about this, but did note that it’s not rocket science to figure out if you’re going to benefit from it, especially for checkpointing.

Another host of questions Grider says he often encounters revolves around where burst buffers should live. His answer speaks more to what the next generation of supercomputing nodes will likely look like when the software troubles are smoothed, which will probably be flash-heavy servers that perform the same active, smart storage tasks. Currently, however, they reside in a separate set of nodes inside the supercomputer since centralizing minimizes complexity. Having more integrated flow between the flash, compute, disk, and applications is probably going to take around 5 years or more, says Grider. But again, his current research work (as well as the work of others on the programming side) is addressing some of this. In comparison to the other software challenges needed for exascale, however, he notes, solving the little burst buffer problem is nothing.

Government-funded labs are getting the I/O economics message, if nothing else. As Grider told us, this is really the first time that an RFP round has focused on anything other than compute and capacity. Storage and data movement are active parts of the discussion, which is no surprise since so much productivity is lost due to failures—and on point here, the checkpointing and dumping required to make those less painful.

“The dumps we’re doing on systems now are in the hundreds of terabytes range.  In about two years, lots of machines are going to be doing this in the 2-5 petabyte range. If you dump that even at today’s sizes, you’re talking about over an hour to dump all the memory—and this is every four hours or so. That means every four hours you’ve lost an hour or more—and ultimately, that’s 25% of the machine that’s not being used for science. That’s the real economics argument just for checkpoint,” he said.

As reported this week, the new NERSC-8 “Cori” system had an option for a burst buffer built in to explore these possibilities and the other half of the joint RFP (the Trinity system) has the same goal of pushing to 90% efficiency. Since this can’t be done by adding cores and reducing power, minimizing the impact of checkpointing while eventually taking advantage of that time between bursts by doing meaningful work on that otherwise idle data promises a significant boost.

Just as Nick Wright and Katie Antypas told us this week during the NERSC-8 system announcement (okay, “Cori”), which was the other side of this RFP (Trinity announcement expected later this year), this will very likely be a component of exascale systems going forward. There is quite a bit of software work to be done, which will decide where these live and how they interface with the file system. Meanwhile, as the next generation of Lustre is being stapled together with this in mind by Grider and many others, we await news about which vendors are pushing burst buffers forward–and what the ultimate efficiency story will be.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Data West Brings Technology Leaders to SDSC

December 6, 2018

Data and technology enthusiasts from around the world descended upon the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) for the third annual Data West conference, which is taking place this week on the campus of the University o Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Topology Can Help Us Find Patterns in Weather

December 6, 2018

Topology--–the study of shapes-- seems to be all the rage. You could even say that data has shape, and shape matters. Shapes are comfortable and familiar concepts, so it is intriguing to see that many applications are Read more…

By James Reinders

What’s New in HPC Research: Automatic Energy Efficiency, DNA Data Analysis, Post-Exascale & More

December 6, 2018

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Five Steps to Building a Data Strategy for AI

Our data-centric world is driving many organizations to apply advanced analytics that use artificial intelligence (AI). AI provides intelligent answers to challenging business questions. AI also enables highly personalized user experiences, built when data scientists and analysts learn new information from data that would otherwise go undetected using traditional analytics methods. Read more…

Zettascale by 2035? China Thinks So

December 6, 2018

Exascale machines (of at least a 1 exaflops peak) are anticipated to arrive by around 2020, a few years behind original predictions; and given extreme-scale performance challenges are not getting any easier, it makes sense that researchers are already looking ahead to the next big 1,000x performance goal post: zettascale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Topology Can Help Us Find Patterns in Weather

December 6, 2018

Topology--–the study of shapes-- seems to be all the rage. You could even say that data has shape, and shape matters. Shapes are comfortable and familiar conc Read more…

By James Reinders

Zettascale by 2035? China Thinks So

December 6, 2018

Exascale machines (of at least a 1 exaflops peak) are anticipated to arrive by around 2020, a few years behind original predictions; and given extreme-scale performance challenges are not getting any easier, it makes sense that researchers are already looking ahead to the next big 1,000x performance goal post: zettascale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Robust Quantum Computers Still a Decade Away, Says Nat’l Academies Report

December 5, 2018

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine yesterday released a report – Quantum Computing: Progress and Prospects – whose optimism about Read more…

By John Russell

Revisiting the 2008 Exascale Computing Study at SC18

November 29, 2018

A report published a decade ago conveyed the results of a study aimed at determining if it were possible to achieve 1000X the computational power of the the Read more…

By Scott Gibson

AWS Debuts Lustre as a Service, Accelerates Data Transfer

November 28, 2018

From the Amazon re:Invent main stage in Las Vegas today, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy introduced Amazon FSx for Lustre, citing a growing body of applicati Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Launches First Arm Cloud Instances

November 28, 2018

AWS, a macrocosm of the emerging high-performance technology landscape, wants to be everywhere you want to be and offer everything you want to use (or at least Read more…

By Doug Black

Move Over Lustre & Spectrum Scale – Here Comes BeeGFS?

November 26, 2018

Is BeeGFS – the parallel file system with European roots – on a path to compete with Lustre and Spectrum Scale worldwide in HPC environments? Frank Herold Read more…

By John Russell

DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar Interviewed at SC18

November 21, 2018

During the 30th annual SC conference in Dallas last week, SC18 hosted U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul M. Dabbar. In attendance Nov. 13-14, Dabbar delivered remarks at the Top500 panel, met with a number of industry stakeholders and toured the show floor. He also met with HPCwire for an interview, where we discussed the role of the DOE in advancing leadership computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Machine Learning “What-If” Analysis Tool

September 12, 2018

Training machine learning models has long been time-consuming process. Yesterday, Google released a “What-If Tool” for probing how data point changes affect a model’s prediction. The new tool is being launched as a new feature of the open source TensorBoard web application... Read more…

By John Russell

The Convergence of Big Data and Extreme-Scale HPC

August 31, 2018

As we are heading towards extreme-scale HPC coupled with data intensive analytics like machine learning, the necessary integration of big data and HPC is a curr Read more…

By Rob Farber

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This